ThorSport Racing will once again field Toyota Tundras. On Thursday, the team announced they will return to using Toyota trucks for the 2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season. Furthermore, they signed Christian Eckes for a part-time schedule in the #98 Tundra, sharing the truck with Championship Round contender Grant Enfinger; Eckes is scheduled to run ten races while Enfinger does the other twelve.
For the last three seasons, the four-truck team raced with Ford support but announced their departure in mid-January. ThorSport previously utilised Toyota from 2012 to 2017, and was a Chevrolet organisation before that. With the news, the Ohio-based team will be one of six full-time teams using the Japanese manufacturer, joining Halmar Friesen Racing, Hattori Racing Enterprises, Kyle Busch Motorsports, McAnally-Hilgemann Racing, and Spencer Davis Motorsports.
Eckes joins ThorSport after spending his rookie season with KBM, where he finished eighth in points with eleven top-ten finishes, seven top tens, and a best run of second on three occasions. The 2019 ARCA Menards Series champion lost his seat at KBM to Chandler Smith in December.
“Extremely thankful to join Thorsport for 10 races in 21’,” Eckes tweeted. “Honestly didn’t know if I’d be even driving a few weeks ago, so I’m excited to get this deal together! Ready to utilize this 2nd chance.”
Enfinger, also an ARCA champion, scales back from a full campaign despite a strong 2020 campaign that saw him win a career-high four races and reach the Championship Round. The lone non-GMS Racing driver in the final four, he finished fourth in the standings. Considering his success, the news may come as a shock for fans; while the team did not specify reasons for his decreased schedule, these developments typically occur due to low funding.
“Unfortunately it’ll be part time for me this year, but thankful to have a strong ThorSport Racing Toyota Racing team that can go out and win races,” Enfinger posted on social media. “It’s great to be able to continue the partnership with Champion Power Equipment and Curb Records. Ready for Daytona!”
While Eckes and Enfinger split the #98, three-time series champion Matt Crafton returns to the #88 for his twentieth full season with the team. Johnny Sauter is back in the #13 for the third straight year and tenth overall for the team, while Ben Rhodes (#99) enters his sixth season as a ThorSport driver.
“We’re all looking forward to kicking off the 2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season as we welcome ThorSport Racing back to the Toyota Racing family,” said Toyota Motor North America motorsports group manager Paul Doleshal. “This is a great team with an impressive line-up of drivers. Our previous relationship yielded success in the form of race wins and two driver championships for Matt Crafton. We’re looking forward to working with the team again and adding to our accolades together as we focus in on contending for Toyota’s 12th Truck Series manufacturer’s title.”
The Eckes addition is not without some irony either due to his history with Rhodes. Late in last October’s race at Texas, Eckes was clipped by Rhodes while battling for third, sending him into the frontstretch wall. A livid Eckes gave Rhodes the double middle finger as he drove by, and the damage from the incident would help damage Rhodes’ playoff hopes. Both drivers confronted each other after the race and Eckes tweeted at Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth for “pointers”, alluding to Kenseth’s retaliation against Joey Logano during the 2015 Cup playoffs that ultimately resulted in the former’s suspension for two races. Eckes joked about the matter on Twitter shortly after joining the team.
Specific races for the #98’s drivers were not immediately disclosed, but Enfinger will begin the season on the Daytona oval while Eckes makes his ThorSport début the following week on the speedway’s road course.